Bright, poor students could lose out in pupil premium shake-up

This is an edited version of an article in the 23 October edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES

Bright pupils from poor homes could lose out in a funding shake-up being considered by ministers, TES has learned.

Ministers are discussing a plan to give extra pupil premium cash to disadvantaged children who start school with low levels of attainment, paid for by cutting the pupil premium funding for higher-attaining pupils.

But the government’s former national pupil premium champion has voiced concern about the proposal, saying it would be a departure from the “important principles” that schools should have the freedom to decide how to spend pupil premium cash and that the funding should support all disadvantaged pupils.

The idea is also being opposed by influential social mobility charity the Sutton Trust.

A Department for Education source told TES that several headteachers and funding experts had lobbied for a shift in the distribution of the £2.5 billion pupil premium funding pot away from higher-attaining disadvantaged pupils.

The idea was first set out in a report published last year by the Fair Education Alliance. The group, which aims to close the achievement gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their peers, includes Teach First, the NAHT headteachers’ union and children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The alliance suggested changing pupil premium funding to “give double-weighting to those low-income pupils most in need of intervention without raising overall pupil premium spend”. It said the change would make it easier for schools to help low-attaining disadvantaged pupils to “catch up” with their peers.

But John Dunford, national pupil premium champion until this summer, told TES the proposal was “of concern” as he believed the funding should “give a leg up to bright, poor children”.

A DfE spokesman said: “We are committed to protecting pupil premium funding and we are looking at ways to deliver on our commitment to make school funding fairer.

“We think the pupil premium works well, but are always looking at ways to improve it.”

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